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September 3, 2008

ITU: Asia Pacific has two billion telephone subscribers

The Asia-Pacific is home to almost half the world's fixed telephone subscribers and has 42 percent of the world's Internet users, with China and India, the world's two fastest-growing countries leading the pack, the Telecommunication/ICT Indicators 2008 Report said.

"With 1.4 billion mobile cellular subscribers, it also has the largest mobile phone market share," the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) said in the report released to coincide with the launching of Telecom ASIA 2008 in Kuala Lumpur.

By mid-2008, China and India alone had over 600 million and 280 million mobile cellular subscribers respectively, representing close to a quarter of the world's total.

The report said average annual mobile growth over the last five years was close to 30 percent, and with mobile penetration approaching 40 percent, almost two out of five inhabitants in the region enjoy the benefits of mobile
telephony today.

It also said that non-voice applications via mobile phones are increasing rapidly and now account for more than one quarter of the region's main operators' mobile revenues.

Text messaging, or SMS, is the predominant non-voice, mobile application, the report said, citing Filipinos who sent a staggering 650 text messages per subscriber per month, the highest in the world.

SMS has emerged as a significant alternative to computer-based e-mail in the region's low and lower middle-income economies while other mobile data applications, such as cash transfers and online purchases, are creating new business opportunities in poor countries.

The area in which the region really stands out is the uptake of advanced Internet technologies, especially broadband Internet access, as Asia-Pacific is the world's largest broadband market with a 39 percent share of the world's total at the end of 2007.

In terms of broadband access, Asia-Pacific has made remarkable progress in the past few years, with subscriber numbers growing almost five-fold in five years -- from 27 million at the beginning of 2003 to 133 million at the start of 2008.

South Korea leads the world in terms of the percentage of households with fixed broadband access, and no less than five economies in the top 10 are from Asia-Pacific.

But the gap in available broadband speeds between rich and poor countries is as wide as broadband penetration, ITU said, citing Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong where the minimum advertised broadband speed is faster than the maximum broadband speed in Cambodia, Tonga, Laos and Bangladesh.

The ITU report said that broadband uptake enables a range of socially desirable and valuable online services in areas such as government, education and health, which can help overcome many of the basic development challenges faced by poor countries.

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